Thursday, September 12, 2013

How Catcalls Make Compliments Complicated

You know what? I’m feeling a little conflicted today. About the guys who send me messages through my author's page whom I know have never read my stuff.  Many of whom have no intention of reading what I post.

Know how I know? 

Because they'll do stuff like call me “my baby girl” or “my little slut” or "my Queen" or "my Mistress" when, if they'd read my stuff, they'd know – please don't do that. It's presumptuous—as, by nature, I’m not actually any of those things to anyone—and it’s just bad etiquette. I don't know you, you don't know me; so, trust me when I tell you, I'm not your anything.

To quote myself:

“Never call anyone by a title automatically;” Pip had said with a tsk, “there are few things more awkward than someone acting as if they’re in-scene before anyone has agreed to anything. I’m not anyone’s Mistress and I’m sure as hell not anyone’s slave, assuming that I am on first meeting…well, it’s making an ass out of someone and it sure isn’t me.” 

Now, please understand, I’m not saying this to insult or rag on or attack these guys—I do appreciate that everyone is at different places on this crazy sexual journey and, more times out of none, it’s about just not knowing when and where and how to approach people about what you want and what you like. We’ve all got to start somewhere and, in the great and grand scheme of things, messages like these aren’t the worst place to start. I mean, like most women—like most people—I love when people give me the simple yet profound gift of a well-worded, kind phrase. And, for the most part, these messages are usually sweetly written and sincerely meant. And, yes, a part of me is blown-away flattered by them. 

They’re also really not helping these guys any.

And here’s why:

No matter how sweetly written or sincerely meant you do this, there has been a legion of men before you who’ve ruined this approach for you. 

And not just with me. 

But with 





Every woman you’ll ever meet. 

Every woman everywhere.

Because, even though I know you mean it as a compliment, it comes off as a catcall. And, guys, I promise you, you will never get a positive response from a catcall.

And most men know that. Northeastern University associate professor of sociology Kathrin Zippel figured out that "Often times it's not really about the women, it's just about the men performing masculine acts for each other and establishing a pecking order amongst themselves. What is really going on is the dynamic among men". A lot of these catcallers—as opposed to the honest complimenters—aren’t doing this to flatter us; they’re doing it to flatter themselves.

A catcaller doesn’t know me. He has no idea who I am. I could be busy and not have time for them. I could be dating someone. I could be married. I could be gay. Or asexual. I could be a violent-assault survivor who’s now flashing back to a traumatic event because of him. But he isn’t thinking about that in this moment. 

That catcaller doesn’t know me. And, moreover, he doesn’t want to know me. 

At that moment, all I am to him is a list of fetishes or an array of body parts appealingly arranged. I’m not a person to him in this moment; I’m window dressing.

You want proof? Look at how these guys go about it. An occurrence common enough that 95% of respondents report having similar experiences.

These are the catcallers who literally stalk you down the street, propositioning you like you’re a prostitute. They’re the catcallers who yell at you in aggressive tones as you pass by, turning a form of flattery into a fight of words. These are the catcallers who sidle too close to you, boxing you in on a bus seat or corralling you on a street corner. These are the catcallers who cross social boundaries, touching you with words whispered on the back of your neck, with faces pressed too close to yours, with looks that are meant to be felt, with words and acts meant to push, to make you react. These are the catcallers who make you feel trapped.

These are the catcallers who make women feel unsafe and who turn innocent complimenters into threats.

And these catcallers are ruining it for everyone else. Because, after years of dealing with these guys, it gets harder and harder to keep the distinction between what they do and what normal, decent men do. It gets hard to not raise your defenses against everything, because you can’t tell if a trap is coming and, some days, over-preparedness sure beats the hell out of surprise attacks. 

And, as women, part of that is on us. We should be making that distinction. It’s extra work and isn’t fail safe. But part of living in a world where you don’t have to be afraid all the time is learning to not be so afraid of the world you live in right now. 

It’s hard and I know that. But, like I said, I don’t want to put all men on the defensive any more than I want to feel like I have to be on the defense all the time. I don’t want men, as a whole, to feel judged by what a few creepy catcallers do. And I want to be able to enjoy the compliments I get from all people—men included. 

So, please, by all means, I encourage compliments. Tell me that you think I’m beautiful. Tell me when you like what I do. Please, let me know when what I write speaks to you. Let me know when the random thoughts and images and moments I put out there into the wide, wide world make an impact. Even if that impact is a simple yet profound as a smile. 

I love compliments. They make this whole process—more than sales or stats—worthwhile.

And, really, that is the biggest difference between a catcall and a compliment, isn’t it? 

A compliment is always more about the receiver than it is about the giver. A compliment sees and acknowledges me—as a person, whole and with a history that extends beyond the speaker or their words. It’s something said to make another person feel good. Feel better than they did before it was said. It’s a gift sincerely given. On a really bad day, a compliment can feel like a small miracle and a reason for being. There’s an honest kind of magic in the act that makes me wish it didn’t feel so rare and that should be celebrated, embraced, and encouraged. Always.

On the other hand, a catcall dissects me into parts that, yes, elevates the parts the catcaller wants to acknowledge, while casually dismissing everything else. I could be anyone to him. Any pair of thighs or piece of ass. It’s not even about the thighs or ass that I actually have; it’s about what he would do to those parts, if he could. Any faceless fantasy of a Domme or sub or rope top or bottom he’s ever had. Again, it’s not about the fantasies or wants or inclinations I have, but about the roles the catcaller wants acted out for him. A catcall subtracts me—furiously cuts mefrom the equation as much as possible in order to add to the catcaller’s enjoyment.

And, if someone really needs to ego-stroke himself that much, please stop using other people to do it.

* Yes, I do know that this post is highly gendered. There are women who catcall and certainly most men do not catcall. But, by and large, of the population who practice this false flattery, can we all admit that it’s statistically men who catcall women? And that, of the vast and varied population, it’s the women, who are catcalled by these statistically few but still very numerically prevalent men, who are made to feel unsafe and harangued by the practice? And, most importantly, can we all admit that there’s something we all can do—myself very much included—to make it so we can all stop having this conversation, which will never be accomplished by not having this conversation?
Follow the links for more information about this:
Article on Why Men Catcall 
Podcast on the topic
A Beautiful Analogy - Read the first two comments
A Very Interesting View on the Difference Between Being Objectified and Being Admired (From the Male Perspective)

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